Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yoga poses that cool down anger

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There is anger, and there is anger. You guys won't believe me. But there is the rash, here-today, gone tomorrow anger(Vata dosha); there is the simmering, damn-i'll-get-u-anyhow anger (pitta dosha); i'll-never-forgive-you-you-creep anger (kapha). There are several types of anger. All anger is like a lump of burning coal in your hand, as Buddha is credited with having said. You hold it, and it only burns you. The thing is, if you hang on it, in whatever form it takes, it will cause lots of diseases. Often, I find I can predict the backdrop of some anger in most of the diseases people say they have -- and how do you let go of it. Often, till you meditate, it is near impossible. But at least you can try to release some of the damage of the chemical of anger from  your body (cortisol).
Some poses which heal and cool you down, from inside are,in all types of anger are:

  • Shashankasana (hare pose)
  • Balasana (baby pose)
  • Paschimottanasana (seated forward bend)
  • Pranamasana (prayer pose-- on the knees version)
Jal mudra may help an immediate outbreak of inflammation: touch tip of little finger to tip of thumb.

Cure yourself: happy sadhana!

Anger control: aromatherapy has an answer

Marjoram is seen as a powerful essential oil for emotional culturing. Interestingly, unlike with other mudras where you have to have the anger-driven person involved, for some participation, in aroma, you can diffuse the anger of the other party just by lighting up an aroma diffuser with some special oils like marjoram. For instance, if there is a person in the family or office with anger-control issues and has a terrible temper that upsets you, you could use an aroma diffuser with marjoram to “tame” that person up! Other oils that work with similar impact on the mind are Roman Chamomile(which is really a magical oil, with amazing healing benefits for the mind and body), cypress(which is grounding and calming), lavender (the all-rounder oil which impacts blood pressure which rises up during anger, and actually lowers it). Other sweeter oils which a floral aroma are neroli (which is, unfortunately, super expensive), and rose which though expensive may be found commonly in diluted forms and inexpensive options. If you personally want to use them, you may use it in bath oils, massages, or as gels. Using rose oil drops in washing may leave the fragrance on the clothes for a long while, which may help soothe daily irritations away.

 
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On the inner sound: nadaanusadhana

Image from this site:  http://muslim-academy.com/sufis-spiritual-teachers-friends-allah/

For a powerful quote on the inner sound and the mystical high, check my FB page on , by Hazrat Inayat Khan: https://www.facebook.com/SingingBowlinMumbai?ref=hl

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

What is the best summer pranayama?

Now that we are entering the blistering heat of summer (actually, it is rather pleasant here in Mumbai, during the early mornings and while indoors and especially in old, airy buildings, like mine:) the best pranayama is seethali, which translates to mean the cooling breath. The hissing breath (seetkari) is also cooling. They are ideal for this season.

What is special about these?
They can control hunger and thirst as well.

Mudra for confidence: ahamkara mudra

Press the side of the index finger with the thumb. For both hands. This is called ahamkara mudra.

Uttihita hasta padangushtasana: Raised, hand to toe pose

 
 
This pose is an exciting one for me, because as a high vata person, my balance is skitty at best. So, whenever my practice deepens I seek more time in these poses. This one is a particularly skitty pose, because you need tremendous strength and its not just about balance. Also, it calls for super flexibility. You may be able to hold this pose for a short time, given all these ingredients. But to hold it for a minute or so, which is what yoga is about, then you need a larger dose of such things.
 
It is a pose that needs assiduous cultivation from various angles: lying leg lifts, side leg lifts(to open your hips which will crank up with cramps if held for long), strength at calf muscles, through a standing-on-toe tadasana, and parivritti janusirsasana (side twist head to toe pose, seated).
 
What it means is, to hold this pose well, you need to build through other poses.
 
 
It is very gounding, uplifting pose.
Happy sadhana!
 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Yoga and weight loss? Yes, for sure!

Here is my article on Rediff.com, on weight loss through yoga.. Here is the link, and  believe me, it works!

On how sounds affect your brain, and add to your well-being


I am readinga book by Don Campbell, The roar of Silence--Healing power of Breaeth, Tone and Music.

He says that what we do not remember is that the ear is also a major player in gauging our sense of space and how we align our posture. After all, the inner ear apparatus is closely linked to our posture.

That was an aside, to this post. I wanted to actually write about how excited I was to read what he says about the limbic brain and its response to sounds. Here the brain deals with wordless input -- where "basic sounds of expression" are made. Here is where we are possibly hardwired to harmonic sounds and be healed. The replitian  part of our brain is more ancient, but it is in the mid-brain is where we are stationed as Mammals -- creatures which get their sense of well-being from bonding, nurturing, being cherished and to love and be loved. Here is where sound impacts us
most, before they reach the "word" stage. It is exciting what he says next:
Here is Campbell on this exciting, healing connection: "When we chant or hum for long periods, we can stimulate this limbic area to reduce stress and give us a sense of well-being. Toning creates a deep sense of being bonded within ourselves. We can reach a state of contentment in a safe and fully aware state of mind."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Yoga for cancer: Gayatri mudra


I first read of the Gaytri mudras -- 24 of them -- in Keshav Devji's book. Subsequently, when discussing yoga for cancer with a student, I went back to a book I had by Bijoylaxmi Hota and saw that she had also included this set. Yesterday, excited once more by a FB pose by instructor Steven  on Ahamkara mudra (Ego hand gesture) I dug back into the mudras, and wished to post this, for those who may need it.

By the way, u will find that if a particular mudra is necessary for you, your fingers usually have a great initial resistance and difficulty in assuming this. For me, when I started practicing yoga, it was a good indication of a deep connection between our hands/fingers and our brain map. My "earth" finger (ring finger) often will not be straight in some poses, because as a Vata person grounding is what I want, and it is my area of weakness..it will also shake a lot, etc. So, that should not be deterrent in going ahead.. in fact, it should excite you to clean up your insides, by just holding your fingers right!

Here is a clip, on Youtube by Keshavji himself, on the Gayatri Mudra
 

Where the divine hides:)


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My facebook page on Singing bowl meditation, here https://www.facebook.com/SingingBowlinMumbai


"I dwell note in Vaikunta (Heaven) nor in the hearts of sages and Saints;but where my devotees sing, there I am, O Narada."

Lord Vishnu, explaining how the divine is hidden in sounds.
 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Can you get bored with your yoga practice..?

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Some people get bored doing this or that. I have had, and do, have  students who will always want some "entertainment" on the mat (in Mumbai, that is sort of a must, it seems:) Some people get bored with the same people they have to practice. Or the same gender(. Surya namaskar -- the biggest target. Pranayama, it can really get some people!!

 I had an American lady who muted her criticism of my stubbornness to the Sivananda style, saying I was like her (opinionated, she meant) .. and some part of the criticism involved the fact that I was not open to experimenting with how she felt I must do the class.. Frankly, heavens, was she qualified to suggest this? Apparently --  she had tried  hundred schools of yoga. But clearly she had not stolid practice, because she fumbled in all the classic poses, yet she would want to tell me what I must teach her!  It was not that I did not want to enterrtain her(which was her grouse really:), but I believe, as my master says,  It is better to practice one thing, than to try 1000 things that remain unlearnt! (An ounce of practice is better than tonnes of theory: Sw Sivananda).

She dropped out, not surprisingly.

I also have students advising me on how to sequence the class, where to place some poses, where to place the pranayama: it is pretty amazing -- in a way, I guess, because yoga is now so widely around, everybody thinks they know a lot about it.. which is good. Or is it? :)

Yeah, I am in a rut, apparently.. not being entertaining et al.. Next I may be required to wear a clown's hat, or a item number costume.....Whatever!!!!

Here is a story:

A monk said to a master. "I am bored with following my breath."

The master grabbed him and pushed his head under water. Just when he was about to drown, the master pulled up his head and said: "Are you bored with breathing now?"
 

The Aha moment, on the mat

The only reason I do yoga and the only reason (apart from what I earn, which, believe me or not is incidental to me) I teach it, is  because I have this mumukshutva. I await, something, breathlessly...

These days, touch wood, maybe since I feel less drained, with less students around, my practice has settled into some consistency. Many students of mine want to become instructors, but I do not advise them, since each to his own, but  when you start teaching the worst thing is the way your practice may fluctuate if you do not watch out. Hanging on to an individual practice must always be more important than teaching. Unless you adopt that attitude, it is pretty much a wash-out, rest of what you achieve..

So, when my practice grounds me as it is doing now, I have these wow-wow moments, as something gets clarified.

You realize that it does not matter anything you feel. Your thoughts themselves, extraneous. It is impossible for the mind to be still since it is so scared of losing the sense of I.. that it will return to mundane thoughts to maintain its sense of the self.. and whatever else it achieves, is squeezed between these mundane stuff. It is pretty amazing how the mind fritters itself away -- whether you read, create or achieve, it is still a wastrel, the mind itself. The idea of a solid yoga practice is really to go beyond the mind itself, the land somewhere inside one,without the props that the mind provides. That is a strange direction. Which means you sort of turn yourself 360 degrees away from who you were a few moments ago. It is the  mad place, of Alice in the Wonderland! Stepping beyond the looking glass..
But  perhaps that is why meditation is so tough -- Because who wants to find out  that one's mind is mundane? And then, heavens, to drop the mind itself!! That is even more unthinkable..

So, between the thoughts, where nothing moves, this thing that can be uncluttered, relaxed, completely indifferent, beyond the mundane stuff ... (So ham, so ham)

As a Buddhist saying goes:
There is nothing to be created; it is an awakening..

This happens a lot on the mat, when the mind is uncluttered by its own need to achieve, when it understands pain and becomes indifferent to it, and then, it takes a third person view, of itself.. that is a crazy happy place, on the mat! But to be able to meditate on the mat, you have to settle into any pose for long, and just feel the mind through the pose -- that is why practice, practice, practice! What is there then, left, to teach:)

(Below ink painting by Hasegawa Tohaku, 16th century, Tokya Museum)

Answer to the query posted earlier: all poses

Chakrasana, dhanurasana, bhujangasana all work on the heart center, which may explain why they can be extremely tough to negotiate: tricky thing, our hearts!

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Brahmacharyasana:renounciate's pose

The name may frighten those who think of yoga as some sort of magical thing -- which it is, but not in the way people fear(spells, black magic, tantra, that sort of fears that some people nurse!!).But what it means, the word renounciate, in this context is that it means detachment from pain, and implies tremendous endurance.

This pose is rather easy for most men with even a casual upper back strength. And often, it helps salvage egos in a yoga class, where some men may not be able to hold the basic crow(kakasana) or the bakadhyanasana (meditating crane pose) for long. The latter require focus and inner calm, while the former --the brahmacharyasana -- requires pure strength. So, yes, it can help you feel better.

For women, it may give a high for the opposite reason, since this strength of the upper back must be assiduously cultivated and it feels good that you are focused enough on the mat to be able to do this well.

I go to this pose and then forget it, because, yeah, maybe I lack focus:)!! But I keep coming back to it, because, it is such a tease.

Here the pose, finally, at a higher level than I ever tried, and for far longer than a selfie allows:)!!


What this pose needs:
* Stomach strength.
*Leg strength
* Upper back strength.

It is worked best from working with lolasana in its various versions first, and then ekapada bhujapidasana.

Happy sadhana!

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

When the heart chakra fails you..

..how does it affect you on a biological level?

When Anahata does not flow well,either overflows or is blocked, following problems may be expected:
  • Breathing problems/asthma
  • High blood pressure
  • Hear problems
  • Immunity weakens
  • Problems with arms/hands
 

Which of the following poses work the heart chakra?

!. Dhanurasana/bow pose
2. Cobra pose/Bhujangasana.
3.Camel pose/ Ushtrasana?
4. Chakrasana / Wheel


Answer tomorrow.

Kunzite, a lilac beauty, a heart chakra stone

The other day I met an old acquaintance of mine,also a yoga teacher. She waved her hands around me vaguely covering my whole body, and kept saying, "Something has changed, something has changed. Mmmm. I hope for the better. At least, I am a lot peace with myself. I realize my need to keep doing things is not as creative as much as an attempt to control anxiety from childhood and that a lot of us going for the rush may actually be guilty of that need. And what is yoga, unless all hunger is quelled, including for action (so rajas can finally transform itself to sattva:)

I spend more time with my pets. I sit down with the stray cats I am feeding, where earlier I used to feed them and rush off. I connect with them, and for a few seconds time stops completely in their love. My parrot and I, we spend a lot of time. My Pepper has taught me to "waste time" meaningfully.. in love and nothingness, as also my beautiful souled Persian Sattva..

Yes, I hope something has changed. My thoughts still zip about  like they have a fire lit under their butts:) But I will get there, and jump between the clashing rocks, so I can reach that special place, that gap between thoughts where time stops..

Any case, I spend more time with my stones also. I feel less cheesy discussing them, as I do my bowls. So, alive, these things. So, I found my lost Kunzite, and gave it a jeweler next door to set it in silver, in a way I can wear it either as a pendant or a ring.

Kunzite, a lilac stone, so pure, so clear, so sparkling...

A glimpse of the infinite.
Love, of the self and others, and a reaching out that comes from the comfort of that.
Letting go of emotional debris.
Cleansing the aura, blocking negative hooks and entities.
Calming.
Energising.
Heart chakra stone. Connects to the throat and the third eye.
Helps clarify selfexpression creatively.
Immune system, circulation.
Removes stress.
Removes blocks.
Uplifting. Removes depression.
Nerve problems. Epilepsy. Joint pains.




 

Monday, April 07, 2014

Yoga to clean up -- to prepare you for sahaja avashta

Here is what Harish Johari has to say about how each aspect of yoga is used to destroy something within us

Asana -- end to corporeal activities, and gets directed towards prana and sense organs

Pranayama -- stops the anxieties of the sense organs, only mental activity remains

Pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samprajnata Samadhi -- mental activity is stopped, and only the intellect is allowed

Through samprajnata Samadhi and vairagya -- even Buddhi/intellect is destroyed.

The final stage is when the sadhaka is in a state of Sahaja Avastha -- the unchangeable state. A state of supreme consciousness.



 

New trick to an old pose: The locust recalled

This is one pose which really challenges me. I always have a reason to do it shorter than all other backbends. And it is the pose that makes me feel "yeesh"and humble.. Though I do jump up in its handsfree version and can get quite a high at overcoming the fear that pose offers even today, after so many years, I still shrink visibly when I do the classic locust.

These days, as I explained due to the slack in teaching and somehow feeling the sense I can breathe that little extra more, I have been trying to find various different ways to enter it.

One way, which eases the heaving entry into it, is by keeping the soles of the feet together in the baddhakonasana aspect, and lift the knees, then feet off the ground as you straighten the legs.

The other way, I realize is to lift one leg up as high as you can, and without jumping up, just easing the other leg up -- this prevents a jump (which, long term, can contract the hip muscle of the weaker leg -- because that is the second leg which must leap and give a short "kick" to the pose). A jump in the salabhasana can contract the hip/lower back muscles, create a permanent nerve pinch.

So, easing up with one leg leading the other gracefully is better. I am cleaning up this, and hopefully should have got a grip on the pose in a month or so. You guys too try it and let me know how these tips work out.

Happy sadhana!

Lolasana: Pendant pose

I have cleared the deck for more organized yoga practice. The student strength, during summer for some reason,always dips. I think people plan travel and then shirk yoga, the classes here, so they don't have to pay for the full month. Fair enough.This has been a trend since I started teaching. Earlier, if you are a teacher, totally looking outwards to find a meaning to your life, this situation can be a bit daunting. Frankly, nowadays, whenever there is less attendance, I see the positive aspect of it, that the ones who are around are strong students, and they always buffet me and my practice. So, in a way, the more I teach, the more detached I am from the idea of teaching, and quite enjoy the slack when it happens and see it as a time to recuperate my soul:)

Otherwise, when you wake up in a morning and have to confront a tiresome or demanding or a "custormer" type of student, it can be as bad as going back to office and putting up with nagging workers and bosses!! What's the point when you are headed in the opposite direction of the rat race?!!!!

So, have dug up a few of the poses that have been planning to try. The pendant pose is a lovely, sweet one. Somewhat like the duck pose.

I saw it in the Yoga Bible, though I felt the instructions rather misleading there. I next tried my version, the one I remember from the Light on Yoga by Iyengar. And when I searched the net, it appears that the ankle crossed version is more common. So, here is the pendant, not perfect, not swinging, but still there, on first attempt!

What you need:

Unlike with other arm balancers, this one is tricky. You need to learn to isolate body parts and lift from each. Eg:  The left knee has to lift first, if the right leg is below. It makes the pose light. How well you turn your back in, and lift from the abdomen is another matter of strength.

It is a very exciting pose. I myself did not swing more than a few times in the first attempt. But I feel the swing is a matter of a practice and should fall in place. Very excited by the pose because it seems to demand sheer strength. It is something one can never stop working on, on the mat.

 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The main need in arm balancers?

Is it strength? Or muscles? Or tone?

Actually very muscled people often may find the arm balancers awkward or heavy. It is about litheness.. strong, but supple muscles which are also flexible.

But the most important ingredient for a great arm balance

** Co-ordination.
** Multiple focus --
** Fearlessness

What are the points of focus/ spiritually for each of these arm balancerss?

Bakasana (crane pose) -- ajna chakra (third eye) -- nasikgra drishti (nose tip)

Bhujapidasana -- shoulder pressing pose -- focus is vishuddhi -- throat

Titibhasana --firefly -- tailbone - swadhistana -
 

Uplifting flow: from Bhujapidasana to Titibhasana to Bakasana

There  are some days when you feel as if you have seen wastelands and devastations. When you hear the winds howl through the aridity of the soul. When the toss between everything and nothing seems to favor the latter:(

On such days, the best rescue remedy are arm balancers. They can give you a 180, or even 360 degree shift in perspective. From nothing, if not everything, at least something.

So, I have these mood yo-yos when I feel I am looking into absolute void very clearly.. on such days my arm balancers save me.. I realize, the nothing is actually hiding something.. everything.

So, yesterday this vinyasa from the shoulder pressing pose to firefly to crane saved me.. it is first attempt, hence the shakiness. But amazing flow and rather easy:) Am getting there.. Hey,void, I salute you for pushing me to such things...

 

Monday, February 10, 2014

The three knots that keeps us from self-realisation


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Brahma granthi -- at the base chakra -- attachment to pleasures; characterized by selfishness -- ruled by tamas -- lethargy and ignorance.

Vishnu granthi -- at the heart -- all emotional attachments -- characterized by rajas -- intense activities

Rudra granthi -- at the third eye -- attachment to psychic powers -- characterized by sattwa -- still attached to individuality

All knots must be undone, to reach cosmic consciousness (All definitions from Sw Satyananada's book Yoga and Kriya)

 
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The actual impact of asanas -- from a real master

It is frustrating being a teacher, because people -- even after several years with me -- some students will be casually late for a class. That is a big puzzle to me, what they think discipline is about and how they have no sense of etiquette even. I often worry that the corruption and rot in our country comes not from really bad people as much as from such people who are  casual and lackadaisical about so many such things. That when I read of a joyride that causes a near-fatal accident or a sky-rider diving to death in India, due to bad management practices, I see some of my chilled out students  and think it is people like this who cause such bad things to happen. That being casual is actually being rather callous. That it is actually being dangerous. And that be really chilled out does not mean being brain dead in other spheres of life (except making money or partying!).
But nowadays I am trying hard, very hard (but my Vishuddhi chakra is still relentless) not to lecture people.. but really being late, not bothering to be regular, not focusing during class, constantly going to the same problems (over-eating, being depressed, this sickness or that sickness which could be cured with yoga but they don't put their heart to it)... I am trying to lose my karma as a teacher.

Anyways, going to my real great teacher -- in proxy since I have never met him, but align with his books as Gurumukhi -- Sw Satyanandaji says that the physical body is just the tip of the iceberg and the rest of  who we are is invisible yet controls us all the time. Asanas work on this part of us. This  may not be visible to us, but governs us. That is why they make a big difference.. the pranic and mental bodies is where asanas impact us, even through simple poses.

However, to ensure that the transformation is complete, we cannot pretend asanas are everything. They are one aspect of what yoga is about...unless we make all parts of yoga some part of our lives, the impact of yoga would be reduced. We may maintain status quo, but the asanas' impact will be less successful or efficient.
From his book, a really big tome: A systematic course in the Ancient Tantric techniques of
Yoga and Kriya.
It is a wonderful book. Probably the only one you need...It has stories, quotes, anecdotes, and great insight.
 
It is amongst the best yoga books, next only to the other Sw Satyanandaji best-seller Asana Pranayama Mudra Bandha which is my reference bible and has helped me with every pose in terms of dhrishti, spiritual awareness, clarity of instruction,breathing sequence, and healing, for use. I would not be a yoga teacher without the support this book gives me.